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Predicted prisoner Increase may spark wrong Review

Predicted prisoner Increase may spark the wrong Review

Prison Fellowship National Director, and former Head of the Prison Service, Kim Workman is concerned that the predicted increase in the prison population, may spark a review of the prison system.

“The latest prison population forecast tells us that an 18% increase in prison population, or another 1700 prisoners, is on the cards by 2010. In other words, the taxpayer will need to build an extra prison a year for the next three years, to meet the demand. That could mean spending a further 1.5 billion over the next three years. What taxpayer wants that?” “How can the public reasonably expect the Department of Corrections to cope with an increase of that magnitude, when it has already had to cope with an unpredicted 30% increase in numbers over the last three years?”

“If Parliament decides to carry out an investigation into the prison service at this time, it may end up aggravating an already critical situation. The Chief Executive knows what has to be done – let him get on with it. Prisons are difficult things to run – once you lose control of their management by providing less than humane conditions, and denying basic human rights to prisoners, it is a very difficult situation to recover. This situation won’t improve unless government can get the numbers down. The real issue is that current sentencing legislation, policy and judicial practice has contributed significantly to this situation.”

“What is now needed is a multi-party accord to examine current sentencing legislation, policy and practice, including an examination of viable alternatives to imprisonment. If we are going to succeed in that, then we have to resist the simplistic “soft vs. tough” line, and get creative. There are plenty of options worth exploring - an increase in community based sentencing, reduction of remands in custody, more flexible use of home detention, restorative justice practice, cultural and faith-based solutions.

Most importantly, we need to re-discover the role of the community in the criminal justice system, and put the responsibility back where it belongs.”

“The only way through this mess is to start a parliament –backed consultation process, which involves the wider community in seeking a more effective prison reform strategy.”

ENDS

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